Friday, December 2, 2011

Dang! I forgot the Fava Beans!

Dang!  I forgot the Fava Beans!

You know how when you're setting up your seasonal plantings, you try to remember what really performed well in past years (if you are wise you have a garden journal of sorts to refer to) so that you're sure to get some of those plants started for this year's production?

Well, this fall I remembered the lettuce, the pak choi, the arugula, the beets and the onions/garlic bed... but... I forgot to plant the fava beans. 

I got some fava beans a few years ago from a gardening friend who claimed that these were beans you could grow through the winter here in Virginia Beach.  Skeptical?  Yep.  But I planted them.  And they came up in the fall and they struggled on in the colder months, with the occcasional blanket of an old sheet for truly nasty nights, even through the snows.

When warm weather arrived - way before I could put out anything more tender than bitter greens - I noticed the flowers on the fava beans.    The leaves grew larger and the early bees were ecstatic to have the white and deep purple flowers when they came out for a little nectar on warm afternoons.

And then it got cold again and they sort of wilted down and, to tell you the truth, I didn't really pay any mind to the whole project.





And then one day, I turned over the floppy plants in the bed -

no, I hadn't staked them worth a darn - it was winter all this time... I wasn't really paying attention....

And there were all these beans!!!!



I'm not talking measley little beans, either.

Big FAT fava pods.

And I still had no idea how to cook them.  I read all the recipes, which were very involved and included getting the beans out of the pod, pre-steaming, removing the inner "skin" of the beans... and THEN cooking the beans.  Whew!

I did it once, we weren't wowed and I gave the entire harvest to the chickens who most definitely were wowed.

Not another thought until I mentioned it last year to a couple of chef-type friends of mind.  "FRESH FAVA BEANS???" they cried in anguish.   Turns out I had tossed a very expensive, fresh gourmet treat to those chickens, one that is very hard for chefs to get here.  Upon duress - meaning they cried on me for an hour - I promised to plant more favas for them this year.

I forgot.  Oooooh, dear.  I wonder just how late it is in the fava's internal calendar. <sigh> I guess I can only hope they forgot... Just like I did.   Did anyone get favas in this fall?  The seeds are hard to find but Bill usually has them at the Grow Italian website.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Can You Find the Peacock?


Just came in from checking on the chickens and peacocks.  Bonus credit if you can find the peacock in the trees behind the chicken coop.  (Extra credit - the little roundish blob to his upper right is his mate, Q, already balled up against the cold of the evening.) 

See the contrails?  Well, admire this:


See that tiny bright crescent in the middle?  The moon!  Also this evening, up above the peacocks. Can you tell our farm is on a human flyway? It's not just the waterfowl winging through this time of year.

What's really amazing is the sound of geese moving so high up you can barely see them, following the same intuitive path that our navigation can only hope to emulate.

Oh, and you get more bonus credit if you'd like to guess in which direction the Charlotte airline hub is located.... <laughing>

Anyway, back out to finish closing up - couldn't resist a couple of photos though.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Let Us Lettuce.... no?

Ack.  Do you see those beeeautiful lettuce plants? That view is just a cute square of my winter salad raised bed, full of tasty lettuce, arugula and greens for my "off season" salad treats. 

Do they look tasty and delicious?  Yes, yes.

Do they look healthy and nutritious?  Yes, yes.

Do they look suitable for a salad?  Yes, yes.

Do they look full of APHIDS?????? 
Well, they ARE.

Hissssss.  Breaking out cinnamon oil and water sprays. The beneficials are long gone a few frosts ago.  Wouldn't you think the little soft-bodied aphids would've kicked off, too????

If y'all have grown lettuce you know what it's going to be like cleaning itty bitty aphid bodies off those beautifully crenulated and cutleaf leaves.   <sigh>  The best laid plans of gardeners.......

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Moments of Thankfulness at the Farm

Even when it seems to me that most of my gardening energy is spent whining about how much I'm not getting done and how disreputable everything looks and how far behind I am in all my plans.... there are sudden moments when I am simply thankful to be here.

Coming out the back door to find a blaze of color in my empty winter garden - Cuppers, the peacock waiting for me to come out with treats.





Fresh Ponderosa lemons ripening on their little tree near the back door, ready to go in iced tea for our holiday feasting.











The gentle, sweet fragrance of Loquat blossoms perfuming the air all around the house with the promise of fruit in the spring.













And the beauty of a rainbow in the autumn rains.


Lawd, why do I gripe so much?

These are the moments worth being born for.

And worth being grateful for.

May your life be full of gratitude because it is full of wonderful things.

And best wishes from this little farm.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Coop Coup

One of my darling girlfriends saw fit to gift me with a ridiculous metal rooster that she hauled cross country solely for the purpose of adorning my chicken coop.

Upon seeing the rooster, I realized that my chicken coop had become much too drab to host such an artistic statement. 

It was drabber than it looks in this photo - really needing a new coat of paint and some jazzy color.  (You can see the larger peacock aviary that attaches to the coop in the background.)

So, to celebrate the arrival of the Metal Masterpiece, I spent the weekend scraping and painting the coop.

Alas, the photo shown doesn't include the final coat of new bright barn red paint... but you get the picture!

The color choice was dictated by whatever was in the barn - we are determinedly using up the decades of stuff accumulated out there.  We call it "shopping the barn".  :)

Final photos will follow - but we all agree that the bright yellow trim has cheered us up and the chickens will have a reason to be happy again!  Thanks, Lesley!

Monday, October 24, 2011

R.I.P. Beloved Mr. Chicken

Woe! Tragedy! Disaster!

A loose pack of dogs, roaming at will with neither collar nor tags, went through our farm on a chicken-killing rampage.  Friends helped beat them off but, when the feathers settled, there were no live peacocks or chickens in sight.  Among the bodies was my beloved little rooster, Mr. Chicken, whose toddler-given name stuck for life.  A Cochin banty, Mr. Chicken was only 10" high but he was a terrific, brave and peaceful little rooster who gently fed and gathered his hens where ever they roamed.

The dogs were not mean or feral, four of them were 3/4 grown chocolate and golden labs with the typical happy, happy lab disposition (once we corralled them away from the chickens).  The adult, a chow mix, seemed like a good dog... none were starving or sick, but all had ticks and absolutely no training.  Discards? Escaped cage dogs?

Cuppers and QT, the peacocks, were saved by flying higher in the nearby trees than I could even believe.  At least 35 feet into the air.

(Note: They stayed up there, alert but making no noise, until I came out the next morning.  It wasn't until I let the hens out into the run that they felt safe enough to come down and join us.)

We had no way to know who had survived in hiding - the body count told us who had died in the field.
Come nightfall, Freckles, one of our "middle" hens crept out of hiding, looking for her sisters.  She began calling and shortly her two daughter hens came out from another brushpile. Penny and Lackenflacken, the two oldest hens (shown right) broke cover and made a wild run for the safety of the open coop.

Freckles (show below with one of her chicks last spring) ran across the open yard to the coop.  I had to walk the two daughter hens along until they got close enough to feel safe running alone to the open door.

Everyone is still skittish.  Several hens were never found - either they went far enough to be beyond calling back or they were (I suspect) terminally wounded and died somewhere in the brush where we could not find them.)

It's a sad little flock of five that remain, but they are regaining their courage and roaming again - - but with much more suspicion now!
R.I.P. Mr.Chicken, tiny little rooster, you died trying to save your girls.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Finally October - and Virginia is beautiful again!

The past few months have been a slow blogging (and gardening) season here at Paradise farm.  I've been so worn down by the summer heat and humidity and so irritated by allergies (me! of all people!) that I simply shut down on gardening.

Luckily for me, some of the established plants continued to fight their way onward through the season, despite my neglect - like the beautiful Glory Bower (Clerodendrum trichotomum ) sparkling with seed pods right now.

Each of the determined perennials that pulled through without much aid or interest on my part are really treasured now.  Brave souls.  Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) don't get much respect these days, but what a shot of brightness they've been in my late summer/early fall garden this year.  These are in that group of plants that I utterly take for granted - heck, I spend more time ripping them out than encouraging them. I am humbled by their beautiful tenacity.

 Perhaps even more amazing are the annuals that pulled through almost entirely on their own.  Sure, I threw down the seeds but, believe me, that was the end of it.

I know these zinnias look scraggly when examined on their own, but they brightened every spot in the garden where they sprouted. FYI, these came from free sample seed packets tossed around and discarded at a recent Garden Writers gathering.  I guess zinnias are just too Plain Jane to thrill highbrow Garden Writers..... anyway, I gathered up the leftover packets and stowed them away in my bag.  Mid-summer I discovered the packets and, wandering in my state of garden ennui, languidly waved them about the neglected garden.  A few weeks later, I began spotting clumps of yellow, pink, purple and orange zinnias, happily blooming away in the heat, drought and humidity.  Wonders!   

And I still can't figure out how an area can be in a full-blown drought and be humid.  How miserable is THAT?

Okay - one last cheer for an intrepid annual.   When I discovered the Ligustrum "trees" that I'd spent the last decade sculpting into beautiful multi-stemmed shade features for our pool garden were sending out roots penetrating the pool concrete, they had to go.  The resulting bare fence was HORRIBLE. Something had to go there - asap!!   It was late in the season, planting was mostly over, no perennial shrub would get there this season..... long story short, I dug a shallow trench in the root-bound soil where the trees had been and tossed in a handful of Hyacinth Beans (Dolichos lablab). The result??? Holy mackerel!!

This clump of flowering D. lablab vine has got to extend a full 30' down the fence.  Bees, hummingbirds.... me.... we all love it.   I'm saving all the seeds. I'll have tons.  Let me know if you want some for next spring.  I've always loved this plant - if only because it's so fun to mutter "lab-lab" at it.

Word is those gorgeous bean pods are edible. Haven't worked up the initiative to eat any.  If anyone else has, send in an opinion.  Edible? Delicious?

Anyway, thank heaven for fall.  And thanks for all the enjoyment I've gotten gardening vicariously through all your gardening blogs when I was too out of sorts to do it myself.

 - -  Sybil


Friday, September 30, 2011

Yards - 18th Century or 21st?

Greetings, Useful Gardeners!

Fall is coming and the lawn care companies are once-again launching their huge campaigns encouraging homeowners to spray, reseed and otherwise spend money renovating their lawns. Is this kind of lawncare really a part of useful gardening?

It is fascinating that modern day homeowners are still emulating the estates of 17th and 18th century Europe by maintaining large swaths of cropped grass around our personal "estates". In feudal Europe, those large estate lawns were the result of flocks of sheep and livestock being grazed. Rather than being a useless grass exhibit, these rolling green lawns were obvious signs of prosperity. Even today, while touring the lovely, grand English estates now maintained by the National Trust, one often encounters sheep on the grounds.

Today, however, grass lawns - be they American or otherwise - really represent an huge amount of effort for little usefulness. Families with children enjoy the play space. Adults may enjoy the space for entertaining - although I notice most cookouts and such have moved onto porches and decks as folks avoid sun and mosquito exposure. Nevertheless, we spend an amazing amount of time, money and pesticides on our grass. And grass is the only truly useless part of a natural lawn or open area. A natural lawn, even nicely mowed at a good height (4" or so), has growing within it clovers, wildflowers, herbs.... and all of these flourish and provide sustenance for honeybees and other beneficials.


Check these statistics from the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment (interesting blog by the way) from the webpage: http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/thegreengrok/lawns

Amount of lawn in the United States: 40.5 million acres

Total amount of money spent on lawn care: $30 billion
Amount spent on pesticides in 2001 for home and garden use: almost $2.2 billion

Ratio of pesticide use per acre by the average homeowner versus the average farmer: 10 to 1

And, perhaps my favorite of their lineup of lawn statistics:

The Exxon Valdez spilled 10.8 million gallons of gas while U.S. citizens spill some 17 million gallons refilling gas mowers annually.

Not filling them, mind you, just what was spilled refilling them. Every year?! And don't tell me you've never overflowed that little hand mower tank opening.

So, for some eye-opening education, hike on over to the Duke U. Nicholas School blog, read and start thinking about useful ways you could use that space. Perhaps just as a more useful kind of lawn.

Meanwhile, I'm shopping for sheep. Don't tell my husband.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Loquat Seeds - the beautiful harvest

 Behold the most beautiful seeds in my personal plant kingdom!

These are Loquat seeds (Eriobotrya japonica).  They represent the seed harvest from my entire crop from this June. 

I don't need more Loquats, but I can never, ever resist planting these seeds.  Alas, they don't stay this gorgeous as they dry out or I'd have necklaces of them to wear every day.  As it is, they are tucked into a ziplock in my fridge, waiting for planting time....which will be when I get to it.  Soon, I hope.

FYI, the last third of the Loquat harvest looked like this:

For whatever genetic reason, I notice that the fruits of this tree are less "fuzzy" than most Loquats. And you can see that these got bug pecked, even hidden under those hard, ridged leaves.

In previous years, I have shared my harvest - at least one or two to Rob.  Not this year.  Less than a dozen Loquats.  I ate them all.

Catching Up with the Season

This is the current status of the tomato/pepper bed - moved early this spring from back by the barn into the pool gardens.  (Here's the photo from the beginning planting:  spring tomato/pepper bed planting .) 

Strawberry Verte fig to the left and Basjoo banana to the right.  That banana - the one I wasn't sure would survive the winter unprotected, as it pathetically froze to the ground - is over 14' high.  No bananas, thanks to the freezing winters but, oh, so tropical when seen from the porch.

Amazingly, this ONE small bed, only 4x8' is currently producing more tomatoes and wonderful Carmagnolo Rosso peppers than I can keep up with.  It's planted too densely, I'll admit, but that seems to be keeping the soil mix a tad more moist and cool than otherwise.   How amazing to have only a couple of small veggie beds!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Back After a Not-So-Short Break (or) Welcome to Mid-Summer

Well, I only meant to turn my attention away from my own little blog for a bit while I worked on another web project and look what happens!  Ten weeks gone.  Good excuses, however, I've been devoting my online time to revamping the website for the Friends of Virginia Beach Animal Care and Adoption Center (formerly known as Animal Control).  As an all-volunteer project, the site had become badly disorganized and was very difficult to use.  It's my hope that I can continue to tweak it into a site that will result in better adoption rates for the shelter.  If anyone hikes over to the link, please share your thoughts and suggestions with me!  A real thrill was getting the okay from Robert Seymour to include his wonderful BirdBreath cartoons in the new site.  He's not only a talented cartoonist but a true supporter of animal rescue.  Many thanks, RS!

Monday, May 16, 2011

New Chicks Have Hatched!

Great joy and commotion!  The two determined banty hens successfully nested and hatched TEN baby chicks - six hatched for one mama and the other mama hatched four.  Such hysterical clucking and excitement!

At this point the babies are almost a week old and are shooting around the pens, driving their harried mama hens to distraction.  They cheep constantly.  Healthy, happy babies!


Right before and during hatching, the hens flatten out protectively - you can tell there are little ones moving underneath.

Here is one of the first chicks checking out the new surroundings - staying very close to mama!


Sometimes it feels safer to rest under mama's protective wing and just peek out at the world.



And then, suddenly, there are SIX and they are everywhere!  Mama hen scrambles to keep track of them all.....


Notice the interesting assortment of colors and patterns?  This is going to be a very amusing flock of.... whatevers......  can't help but laugh.  Hope most are hens.....

Poolside Raised Beds

As part of my continuing effort to make our gardening as ruthlessly efficient as possible, making large allowances for our declining interest in sweating "in the field" for hours all summer, I've been moving some of our raised beds into the pool gardens - - previously the only slightly formal gardens we kept.  So far I'm quite pleased with the results!


As you can see, I left a few of the Rainbow Chard just for color accents amid the Romaine lettuce and Pak Choi.  Because this bed is well protected from sun, it was wonderful for salad greens but I shall have to find something very shade tolerant for the summer.  Some herbs, like Tarragon, are already thriving in the sunny corners.

I love having my garden chair right there in the shade!

We also made a super sunny bed next to the porch for tomatoes and peppers, our summertime favorites.  Fun to see them growing up towards the porch all summer, flanked by the Strawberry Verte Fig and the Basjoo Bananas.  Fig brings on huge fruit crops... no such love from the bananas, but they lend such a great tropical air that I can't resist them.


My sister supplies me with the wacky, colorful Talaveres pottery frogs.  I love them!


Nice to finally be getting around to the gardens..... we've had BEAUTIFUL weather for it most of the month.  Yep, my allergies are murder - but even that can't deter my enthusiasm at this point.  I may sound froggier than my frog planters, but that's just the price!  :D

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Princess Curlique Arrives!

Well, after months of waiting and weeks of forlorn calling (for an idea of what this is like, either ask our neighbors or click here: Peacock Calls on YouTube ), Cuppers the Peacock finally has a girlfriend!

The same darling girl, Cindy, who gave us Cupcake, aka Cuppers, has now gifted him with a girl of his own.  Like Cindy's mama peacock, Lady Curlique (that's "Curly Q" for the country minded among us) is a beautiful creamy white with gold, green and black accents.  If only my El Cheapo camera would do her justice....


She's a bit disheveled in this photo after riding in the carrier and is now inspecting the compost area of the run.  Note the delicate turn of foot..... what a princess!

Next was the introductory inspection of each other (see below)... note her polite head turn as she ignores his direct stare...


 Followed by the intoductory waltz...... heads up, heads down, heads up, heads down.....



And ending, so far, with both seeming quite shy but companionable.



Cuppers is much the awkward teenaged boy-on-a-first-date, ducking his head shyly and dashing in every few minutes to check his reflection in the coop mirror.  He fluffs, ducks down shyly and sidles around Lady Q. as she slowly and quietly strolls around the run, checking out the new digs.  She's kept up a low but constand patter of nervous clicks and he occasionally clicks back, but so far he hasn't done much other than looking like a nervous guy on prom night.

Waiting to see how they sort out roosting this evening.....  we are SO thrilled with her arrival. 

Let me tell you, from backyard chicken country... THIS is the Royal Wedding!!

Confetti for everyone! Champagne!
Sybil

Friday, April 8, 2011

What could occupy a gardener in the spring???

Okay, I admit it... my gardens are leaving out, growing and blooming with almost no input from my end.  The chickens showed up in the perennial beds and did the weeding - tossing mulch in all directions but, hey, the chickweed, henbit and dandelion sprouts are gone!  The trees and shrubs have simply gone on, following their own muse, while I was totally preoccupied.  With what, you say?  With this....


"Play with me!" the baby says.  "Put down that trowel and play with ME!"
And so I do.  Puppyhood is short lived and this little foster will -- soon, I hope, for his sake -- be on his way to a loving "forever" home.  Time to enjoy Baby Maverick while he is here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cabbage Thief!!!

Okay, so I've been growling about the @#$ rabbits getting into the raised bed of cabbage.  Haven't seen any rabbits, mind you - but I assumed they were about since something had eaten fully half a head of beautiful, ready-to-pick savoy cabbage.

And then I happened to see someone sneaking, sneaking up on the cabbage bed.




And, now I have proof of what one scavenging peacock can do to a head of cabbage!


Sigh.  So now I'm keeping an eye out to see where and when he gets into the raised beds.  (Below, he's checking out the garlic in one of the old beds.)



But his real joy is just dustbathing with the chickens in the loose, dry dirt where we've been taking out old raised beds.  It looks like it just feel sooooo good to be in the warm, itch-stopping dirt.  They really do love it!


More spring joy for all of us.
And, yes, I promptly began harvesting cabbage - before it was all gone!!!

Sybil

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More "No Impact" - what about those newspaper bags?

Trust me - this looks like a dull post, but the creative stuff is down at the end.   Don't miss it!

Despite all of the effort I've been making to reduce and eliminate waste and trash at our house, there are still some problem areas. One bit of "trash" that arrives daily is the plastic wrap the carriers now put on our Virginian-Pilot newspaper. I've been including these with my few plastic grocery bags, packing it all into one plastic grocery bag and taking them to my usual store's plastic recycling bin, which is generally located just outside one of the entry doors. 

I've been a bit concerned whether this was a legitimate thing to do, so today I actually went to the website that's listed on the bag itself. Turns out that combining newspaper bags with grocery bags is just fine.

Here's the link that says exactly what you can include in this kind of recycling and where you can take the result:  http://www.plasticbagrecycling.org/01.0/s01.1.php

In a nutshell, here's what the site says you can recycle together at Bloom, Farm Fresh, Food Lion, Harris Teeter (and the site lists more grocery stores in our area):

DO recycle:

•Grocery bags

•Retail bags (hard plastic and string handles removed)

•Paper towel and toilet paper plastic wrap

•Plastic newspaper bags

•Plastic dry cleaning bags

•All clean, clear bags labeled with a #2 or #4

Note: Please recycle only plastic bags that are clean and dry. Please remove receipts.

And here's the DON'T list:

Do NOT include the following.
The following are considered contaminants and could jeopardize recycling programs:

NO food or cling wrap

NO prepackaged food bags including frozen food bags

(e.g., prewashed salad bags)

NO film that has been painted or has excessive glue

NO other bags or films

NO bio-based or compostable plastic bags

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
OR, if you know how to crochet, well... you can crochet some plastic bag garden hats!!!  Check this out:
 







 
And, yes, there is a blog dedicated to nothing but the things you can crochet out of plastic bags....
http://cristencrochet.blogspot.com/.  More proof that there is more crazy, creative stuff going on in this world than I ever suspect!! 

I'm going to have to find crochet hooks... and a tutor!
Sybil

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"... in the weeds"

When one of my young friends was working as a waitress, she told me that the code phrase they used in the restaurant business for being hopelessly behind was to say that they were "in the weeds".  Ha!  I am, figuratively and literally, in the weeds, let me tell you.  And, if only the early spring weeds weren't so lovely.  I hate to pull them - but I also know what they will become in my garden beds if left to my admiration.  Remember the movie about the little cuddly aliens that turn into horrible monsters if you feed them?  Well.....

But, meanwhile, have you seen the stunning fields of purple Henbit (a weed, yes) gracing all of the roadways out here in Princess Anne County (south Virginia Beach)?  If these were on a photo calendar of Provence, we would all be saying, "oh, my - I must go there and visit on vacation". Right now we have the insanely beautiful combination of purple fields graced with thousands of white snow geese.  It is Grace just to look at it.  I wish I had a camera that would do it justice.

And already the big agricultural herbicide sprayers are already in action and the beautiful drifts of purple Henbit will all be dead soon, as farmers are getting ready for the first Monsanto bred seed crop.  I'm not saying it's not necessary, just that it makes me feel sad and empty somehow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Is a Puppy a Garden Ornament? NOT!

Well, I'm not as far into my spring pruning and gardening as I had hoped.  There was this DISTRACTION.
Puppy in rare almost quiet moment.....

Behold THE PUPPY!  This is our foster puppy - a six-month old Shih Tzu boy, happy and healthy and full of bounce.  Loving life on the farm while waiting for someone loving to adopt him with a "forever home".

Meanwhile, he has tried out eating the bark mulch (threw that up), pulled out some winter weeds (got pets for that one), pulled out some winter bulbs (foster mom realized that praising his "weeding" abilities was going to have repercussions), dragged around garden tools, carried gardening gloves all around the yard, and slept in the Muck Boots.

A PUPPY.  What on earth was I  THINKING?????

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What a difference a Day Makes!

Who can resist photos on a gloriously brilliant, snow-shining day like this?

Yesterday, my gardening pal, Holly, and I cleaned out the greenhouse, getting ready for spring lettuce and early spring vegetable seedlings. The ground was damp but green and sprouting daffodils and tulips made it seem like spring was on the way.

Today, the gardens are buried under 4" of fresh, new snow that arrived overnight.  No plant flats in the GardenWay cart now -- just snow!

The view out back, toward the barn and greenhouse, was so pristinely blue and white that it was irresistable. There was nothing for it but to hike out through that winter landscape.

Although the coop stays warm and dry, the chickens and Cuppers, the Peacock, were out marching uncomfortably through the heavy, damp snow.   They didn't seem quite sure what to make of it, although this winter they've had a lot of experience in wading through shin deep snows - if chickens have shins, that is.

Monday, February 7, 2011

One - count 'em - Spring Day!


Just a few of this year's catalog offerings!
 Okay!  One spring-like day and I'm insanely flipping through seed catalogs to find my new experiments for this year.  I have so many seeds left from the last three years that there's not much to order - I need to use these saved seeds up first.  Am I the only one who finds way too many seeds in a packet?  For example, I get these fabulous packets from http://www.growitalian.com/ that have HUNDREDS of seeds in them. How many pepper plants do I need?  We need a neighborhood seed swap where each gardener could bring their excess seeds and get some seeds from various packets others have selected. It would be fun to see what varieties someone else was excited about!